Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nonito Donaire Begins to Throw His Weight Around

Donaire won the IBF Flyweight title from Vic Darchinyan with an electrifying one punch knockout in the fifth round.

The first thing that you notice about Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire is just how small he really is. At age 25, the IBF Flyweight titlist stands only a shade over 65 inches tall. His delicate hands, spindly fingers and tiny wrists look like they’d do well to crush a grape.

Maybe that’s what fooled Vic Darchinyan into thinking that he’d bowl right over little Nonito Donaire. Vic, never short on confidence, figured he’d turn out the “Flash’s” light, tear the kid up, knock him out and go on to win his 29th straight fight without a loss and keep the IBF title belt tightly strapped around his own waist.

But a funny thing happened in the fifth round of their July 2007 fight in Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Harbor Yard Arena. Little Nonito Donaire, all 112 pounds of him, put all of his weight behind a hellacious shot that separated Vic Darchinyan from his senses, his aura of invincibility and his championship belt.

And just like that, little Nonito Donaire finally became known. And now he’s throwing his weight around. All 112 pounds of it.

On Saturday night in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Donaire hopes to make the second defense of his title a successful one when he’ll square off against South Africa’s Moruti “Babyface” Mthlane.

On Thursday afternoon Nonito spoke from the Top Rank offices in Las Vegas with a group of boxing writers on an international conference call. Donaire who is very well spoken has a youthful eagerness to his voice. He says he’s can’t wait for Saturday night.

“I went to the gym and started training early for this fight,” he proclaimed.

It’s his first fight under his new promotional deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank and his first fight as a husband since he married the beautiful Rachel Marcial in August.

Nonito was brilliant the last time out when he stopped Luis Maldonado to notch the first defense of his IBF Flyweight title.

In his previous fight, against Luis Maldonado at Foxwoods Resort & Casino last December, Donaire had some issues with making it down to the Flyweight limit because the Maldonado fight was put together on short notice by his former promoter Gary Shaw. Donaire shrunk himself down from 140 pounds all the way to 111 and it left him in a weakened state, but this time he says weight will not be an issue.

“We started our training camp early this time so that we wouldn't have the weight issue,” he said. “The last time around we had about a month for that fight; this time we had two months or more to get ready for it. So my weight is really good right now. I'm ready for this fight.”

Little is known about Mthlane, so Nonito says that he has prepared especially well so that he won’t be surprised when he gets in the ring on Saturday.

“Well, he has a style that he's always in shape,” said Nonito when asked what he knew about his South African opponent. “He's one dimensional. He fights fair, but he's really tough. He can take a punch. He can dish out a lot of punches and he throws a lot of punches. I haven't really, really seen him fight much, but one thing I know, this guy can be tough if you take him lightly. We've already come up with a game plan that if I throw out this punch and it lands, I know I can take him out.”

Those that have worked with Donaire and that have seen what he can do in the ring are very impressed with his abilities.

When he was still with Shaw, the promoter was as high on Donaire as he has been with any of his boxers. On the night he beat Maldonado at Foxwoods, Shaw told me:

“He is real, he’s as real as they come. He fights at 112 pounds; he’s a big 112. We would like to unify the titles if we can. Nonito is a fighter that I believe, and you can write down today’s date, that will be a champion at 112 pounds, he’ll be a world champion at 115 pounds and he’ll be a world champion at 118 pounds – for sure. He’s young, he’s fresh and he can really fight.”

Donaire hopes this belt is the first of many. Those that know him think he will win world titles in several weight divisions.

Donaire is managed by Cameron Dunkin who also manages Kelly Pavlik, among others. Dunkin has managed many lighter weight fighters throughout his managerial career and he feels that Donaire has what it takes to be every bit as good as some great names from the past.

“I managed Mark ‘Too Sharp’ Johnson, who was just a phenomenal fighter,” says Dunkin. “And Johnny Tapia also, you know, a lighter division fighter and Danny Romero - and they're all terrific fighters. Nonito can be as good as Mark Johnson.”

“He just has so much talent,” gushed Dunkin. “He is so fast. Kenny Adams, who I really admire and he's a great trainer. He said the other day when he brought over a sparring partner for Nonito, and he pulled me aside and said, ‘This guy,’ he goes, ‘I don't know where you got this guy. He's better than Corrales.’”

“But as a fighter, this kid can be so, so, so terrific,” continued Dunkin. “He's got speed, he's got power and he's huge for a flyweight. He'll be big at ‘18. He was knocking out ‘22 pounders when he weighed 115 pounds. I could just go on and on and on. This kid can be tremendous.”

But perhaps it’s little Nonito Donaire, “The Filipino Flash” who describes himself better than any manager or promoter ever could. His words are simple, straight and to the point. On a cold night in December, the night he knocked out Luis Maldonado at Foxwoods, Donaire told me:

“I’m no one-hit wonder, I’m here, I’m no flash in the pan.”

And he’s about to begin throwing his weight around.

October 2008

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